Friday, May 7, 2010

Enviropocalypse Now

* Slushy start, slush melts rapidly this morning - dry (windy and cool) for PM activities.

* Sunday: nicer day of the weekend with more sun, less wind, highs topping 60.

* Another 1-1.5" of rain next Tuesday, potential for wet snow (again!) up north.

* An end to Minnesota's nagging drought within 1 week?

Yes, Mother Nature still has the capacity to make you gasp. Just when you think you've seen everything. A fresh shellacking of snow on lawns and fields, a fleeting reminder of how fickle and capricious a Minnesota spring can be - an atmospheric kick in the shorts for anyone who thought Old Man Winter was gone for good. Payback for record warmth in March and April.

A Tortured Spring. This twitter photo was taken in Duluth, where spring comes only reluctantly. Yes, warm fronts often tire before reaching the harbor in Duluth, a persistent (raw) breeze blowing off Lake Superior providing free air conditioning along the North Shore right into June.

Hour By Hour Weekend Weather. The NWS has a great site where you can track predicted sky, temperatures, wind direction/speed, precipitation, thunder risk (everything) from hour to hour, for any point in the state. Click here to see the latest forecast for yourself.

Backwards Spring of '10. Remember back in the good 'ol days (March) when we saw 60s and 70s. Seems like we're heading backwards. We had May in March - now we're getting October in May. Makes perfect sense to me. Friday's highs ranged from 45 at St. Cloud to 48 in the twin Cities to 50 at Redwood Falls. The Golden Rain Gauge Award goes to Eden Prairie, where .60" rain fell by 7 pm Friday.

Don't panic - this is a brief relapse, just keeping us humble, giving us even more appreciation for the mostly-magical spring we've enjoyed here on the "tundra." Not this year. Any snow on your freshly-mowed lawn will quickly melt, pretty much gone by 10 am. Puddles will shrink, clouds will thin, the sun visible by afternoon, bobbing in and out of a deck of low, scrappy stratocumulus clouds, a fresh wind kicking up from the northwest, a rapidly rising barometer hinting at fine weather to come. At least for 36 hours. Our weather pattern is on fast-forward again, any dry, quiet weather (with light winds) will be brief, well-timed to fall on Mother's Day 2010, enough sun tomorrow for highs in the 60s, a light southeasterly breeze under 5-10 mph. Soak it up, because more sloppy, rainy weather is on tap for next week.

Shifting Gears. The storm track has lifted 500-800 miles farther north than it was during much of March and April, pulling Gulf moisture farther north, meaning more frequent and heavy rains (and snows) for Minnesota and Wisconsin. As long as the core of the jet stream some 18,000 feet above the ground continues to howl overhead we can expect frequent weather changes, and above average precipitation - a likely outcome through at least the end of next week.

Why the sudden shift to stormy weather? For much of late winter and spring high pressure dominated the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest, El Nino locking the jet stream in a remarkably persistent pattern that favored big rain and snow storms from Denver to Dallas to D.C. The result: unusually mild, sunny weather for Minnesota and Wisconsin, record highs (and lows) falling left and right, an extended dry spell resulting in a third of the state experiencing a moderate drought by early May (mainly eastern third of Minnesota). We were long overdue for a major shift in the pattern - and it's here. The core of the jet stream has lifted north - storms that were clobbering Little Rock and Nashville are now soaking the Twin Cities and Chicago with heavy rain. As long as the center of these low pressure systems slide off to our south, we'll stay on the cool, stable, rainy side of the storm track. It's when the storms start pinwheeling NORTH of Minnesota that we'll have to be on-guard for more severe weather, hail and isolated tornadoes. I don't see that happening, looking out at least 1-2 weeks.

Super-Soggy Tuesday. The next storm arrives as early as Monday with showers, the heaviest/steadiest rain arrives Tuesday, a potential for 1 to 1.5" of rain. Skies dry out on Wednesday, a hint of spring returning by the end of next week. You watch, the drought will be largely history within 1 week from today.

Too Small To Risk. Commentary: why we need stronger laws to protect against environmental disasters. The editorial at is here.

Tracking the Oil Spill. NOAA has set up a special site for Gulf Coast residents with the latest on the oil spill, where it is now - where it seems to be heading next. Click here for more details. Sad that the NWS is tracking oil spills, in addition to storms, tornadoes, etc...

Q & A about the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The New York Times has a good summary of this slow-motion ecological disaster here.

Mega-Tornado. The (EF-4) tornado that hit northern Mississippi a couple weeks ago (1.75 miles wide at one point) was so big the track of debris left behind actually shows up on weather satellites! Click here to read more (satellite image at the bottom of the page, scroll all the way down).

Why The Media Ignored the Nashville Flood. True, there was other breaking news - the scope of the epic, historic, one-in-500-year-flood is just now starting to sink in. Click here to learn more, courtesy of Newsweek.

Your Exclusive "Ash-Cast". Sounds vaguely dirty (sorry) but Europeans are preoccupied with the ash cloud being generated by the Icelandic volcano - still puffing away. To hear a quaint British accent from a U.K. meteorologist tracking the ash-cloud click here.

Enviropocalypse Now. How did we get here. Click here to read a chilling report, including a worst-case scenario of where the growing blob of oil could go in the weeks ahead. Hopefully engineers will figure out a way to slow the rate of oil release. The pressure of the (gusher) rising up from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico is extreme, oil shooting up from a well drilled 18,000 feet into the Gulf floor. It's like putting your thumb in the proverbial dike. Hopefully experts will catch a break, but nobody really knows how much longer crude will continue to leak into the Gulf. $12.5 billion clean-up cost? Double-dip recession now likely? Who knows?
Scientists Defend Climate Change Research in Open Letter. Click here to learn more.

Paul's Conservation MN Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota

Today: Flurries taper early, slushy start. Clouds giving way to some afternoon sun, windy and cool. Winds: NW 15-25+ High: 51

Saturday night: Partly cloudy and chilly - frost possible far northern suburbs and much of central MN. Low: 36

Sunday: More like spring. Partly sunny Mother's Day (less wind). Winds: SE 3-8. High: near 60

Monday: Mostly cloudy, PM rain possible. High: 56

Tuesday: Wettest day next week. Rain, possibly heavy at times. High: 55

Wednesday: Drying out, becoming partly sunny. High: 61

Thursday: Mostly cloudy, risk of a shower. High: 64

Friday: Unsettled, springy and mild with a passing shower, possible thunder. High: 62

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